Collinet’s “Hand–Book for the Flageolet”

Collinet’s Hand–Book is a wonderfully argumentative and opinionated work. Whilst the British Library suggests it was published in around 1880, it is likely that the work dates from much earlier than this: the younger of the two Collinets, Hubert died in around 1867. He, rather than his father, Edmé is more likely to be the author: Hubert worked for many years in England whereas there is little evidence that his father left Paris. The work is also clearly aimed at the English market, where William Bainbridge’s various inventions were extremely popular; it is very unlikely that it was translated from French.

The criticisms of Bainbridge’s instruments are quite strident. The English flageolet is “almost a toy” and the Double flageolet is dismissed as a being “in vogue at one time” but that it was “doubtful, however, whether any living being can remember to have heard such an achievement” of it playing a duet. Of course, one might question why, if these instruments were so bad, Collinet’s father was advertising selling these “flútes doubles” and “flageolet doubles perfectionnés” in Paris in 1822!

In his discussion of the French flageolet, Like many authors, Collinet emphasises the need for only a very few keys on the instrument and emphatically states that: “only two Keys are ever used by really competent players” which somewhat runs contrary to the mainstream thinking of the time which looked towards the Boehm-system French flageolet as the most sophisticated form of this instrument.

The fingering chart gives a basic 2–octave, fully chromatic range from the instrument, from A to A''. He mentions the possibility of a bottom G but states that: “it is best left alone”. An eyebrow might also be raised about this, since some of Collinet’s music utilises a low G♯!

The fingerings themselves are, however, rather curious. There appears to have been some confusion over the bottom half of the instrument, with the right hand being given in the order of: thumb, 1st and 2nd fingers . The actual pattern on the instrument is 1st finger, thumb, 2nd finger and this makes the chart very hard to read. There also appear to be mistakes in the chart, possibly editorial, as, for instance, the fingering given for C and C♯ correspond with the traditional fingerings for C♯ and B, respectfully. It is also slightly surprising that the charts are given in untransposed form: most of Collinet’s music was published in transposition with the lowest A being written as a D.

Hand-Book for the Flageolet,
With Introductory remarks, the rudiments of music, the proper method of producing a perfect chromatic scale, by the use of only two keys,
Also a
Selection of Forty Admirable Melodies, Polkas, Gallops, Quadrilles, Waltzes, &c., &c.,
Many of which are the exclusive copyright property of the proprietor of the Musical Bouquet


The Quadrille Flageolet is a very modern Instrument—so much so that there are not enough performers upon it to meet the demands of the London Season. It is, therefore, both popular and profitable, and whoever wishes for a welcome as an Amateur, or a never failing pursuit as a Professor will do well to take it up.

One reason why the Quadrille Flageolet has remained in so few hands is that it has not been sufficiently explained. Many a Musician, as well professional as private, after listening to the brilliant execution of a proficient, has come to the conclusion that the road to such excellence is beset with difficulties. In the absence of any really practical Instruction Book this idea is natural enough; but we shall prove in our Hand–Book that the Flageolet is very simple, and that the Books which treat of elaborate fingerings upon Flageolets with many Keys are merely attempts of the makers to foist expensive Instruments upon the beginner. This fact will be better understood when it is known that only two Keys are ever used by really competent players, and that one key alone is sufficient for most passages.

Our Gamut and Diagram will fully illustrate the system adopted by real Flageoletists, and, at the same time, encourage by its facility whoever may desire to avail himself of the opening for the occupation to which we have adverted.

The Flute Flageolet is unfit for Orchestral use, by reason of the weakness of its tone, which is far inferior to that of the ordinary Flute. Nevertheless, it is much admired as a substitute for the latter Instrument by those who cannot form a proper Flute embouchure.

The English Flageolet is another purely Amateur's Instrument—in fact it is almost a toy. Still, it has its admirers even amongst adults, whilst, with boys it is always in considerable requisition.

For the Flute Flageolet it is enough to say that it is fingered in all respects like the Flute, so that the “NICHOLSON'S HAND BOOK FOR THE FLUTE” published uniformly in size and price with this work, at the Office of the “Musical Bouquet”, will give every detail needed by the Flute Flageoletist.

As to the English Flageolet, it is so like the Flute Flageolet that it is unnecessary to give a separate Scale for it- the more so, as it is chiefly used by those who would probably shrink from the slightest technicality. There was in vogue at one time a Double Flageolet, upon which a Duet might have been played by one performer. It is doubtful, however, whether any living being can remember to have heard such an achievement.

The Quadrille (or French) Flageolet is the Flageolet “par excellence”, and instead of occupying space by further allusion to the comparatively useless members of the family, we shall direct our exclusive attention to that sparkling Instrument.

[here follows 4 pages concerning the rudiments of reading music]


The first and second fingers and the thumbs of each hand are employed to cover the holes of the Flageolet, two of which are behind, and are covered by the thumbs, and four in front covered by the fingers. The left hand commands the upper holes and the right hand the lower one. The two Keys absolutely necessary, are situated one below the holes—the B♭ Key, and the other between the upper finger holes, only at the back of the Instrument which is the D♯ Key. The Mouthpiece rests upon the under lip without pressure, as a very gently breathing is enough to produce a tone. Above all things, the Chest must be allowed to play free, for as the wind is confined in the lungs so as to supply a steady current to the Instrument, and further compression would be hurtful. Besides, a stooping position would be as prejudiced to appearance as to health. The Flageolet should slant away from the Chest which, with a manly attitude on the part of the performer, will impart an air of importance to the Instrument not otherwise obtainable.


Unlike most other Wind Instruments, the Flageolet does not require any physical effort to make it speak. The slightest breath will suffice for the lower notes, whilst for the upper notes, although more wind is necessary, the smallest approach to violence would mar the tone.

But with all this ease of blowing, it must be remembered that, there is a tendency at the beginning to shut back the air in the lungs, and this peculiarity may, if note carefully guarded against, become a habit.

To avoid any inconvenience, the performer must take care to breathe as often as as Rests, or the exigency of Music will permit. It is note often that a passage is slurred thro’ many bars, and in most cases, an opportunity to relieve the lungs occurs before it is even needed.

By attention to this one point, the Flageolet becomes the least trying of the Instruments, (far less fatiguing, in fact, than reading aloud) whilst, should it be neglected, the Flageolet will entail upon himself a labour tenfold greater than that of the Trumpeter.


N.B. The white circles show which holes are to be open, and the solid ones those that must be closed. For every note above B the upper thumb hole must be half covered, and for every note above G both thumb holes must be half covered.

The low G is rarely used, and it is produced by closing everything, and inserting the fourth finger of the right hand into the bore of the Instrument. It is best left alone.

Left HandThumb
1st Finger
2nd Finger●○●○
Right HandThumb
1st Finger
2nd Finger●○
[* “4th Fin'r in bore”]

The Pupil will remember that Flageolets generally have from four to seven Keys, but all above the two marked in the Diagram are useless. The Keys are to be opened whenever they appear in the Diagram. The very high notes should not be attempted at first—from A to D is an ample range fro the early practice.

Have Your Say

Comments, suggestions and corrections are always welcome. Please use the form to add some! To avoid spam, all comments are moderated before being displayed so there may be a delay before they appear on the site.

If you are asking a question, please note that there is no way of automatically notifying you when I have answered. Therefore, please either keep checking the page for my reply or send me a message, privately.

Add a Comment


There are comments for this page.

    No comments on this page yet, please add one!